FRESH YARN: The Online Salon for Personal Essays//Current Essays FRESH YARN: The Online Salon for Personal Essays//Contributors FRESH YARN: The Online Salon for Personal Essays//About FRESH YARN FRESH YARN: The Online Salon for Personal Essays//Past Essays FRESH YARN: The Online Salon for Personal Essays//Submit FRESH YARN: The Online Salon for Personal Essays//Links FRESH YARN: The Online Salon for Personal Essays//Email List FRESH YARN: The Online Salon for Personal Essays//Contact


Me and the Kid
By Eric Friedman

I don't want to give you the wrong impression. I like Hector. He's a good kid. A polite, well-behaved, well-adjusted kid. And that's the problem. I'm bored of him. I didn't sign up to be a Big Brother so I could get matched up with a good kid. I did it so I could get matched up with a bad kid. A lost cause. Someone with pain and problems. I wanted to make a difference. Maybe even be a hero. I mean, I believe in doing good deeds and all, but I like to get a little something out of the deal too. Like how I always pledge KCRW, but I wait until they're giving away the really good premiums before I call in. (I took the Chocolate City five pack.)

But after a couple years of hanging with Hector, I don't feel like a hero at all. He never asks me for advice, never confides in me. His dad's not around, sure, but besides that, he's got a pretty okay life. No pain. No problems. He's a happy kid. And his happiness is making me miserable.

So when the Jewish Big Brothers social worker calls and asks how things are going, I tell her that I don't feel like I'm making a difference. She says that I am even if I can't see it. That every time I take Hector out, I'm giving him a day that's just for him -- a day where he doesn't have to deal with his brother or sister or mom. Where he's in charge of the car radio, and can open the sunroof if he wants to.

"Yeah…He broke my sunroof."

(PAUSE) "Oh. Well, hang in there."

A few months ago, I pick him up at his house. He's a wreck. Fighting back tears. "Yes!" I think. "This is it. He's going to tell me about his pain and problems." I wonder what could've made him so upset. Maybe his mom hit him. Ooo, ooo, maybe his dad came back -- and then ran away again! This is so awesome!

"I'm here for you, buddy. Whatever's bothering you, you can tell me, and I'll help."

Pause. Then. (ALMOST CRYING) "My mom made me get my hair cut really short and I hate it short!"

"Well look, your dad probably -- What?" That's what's bothering him? His dad abandoned him and he's upset about a haircut?

I'm clearly bummed, but I force a smile. I tell him his hair looks good short. He says nothing for a long time. I turn on Power 106. He doesn't even sing along with Ludacris when he says, "Move bitch. Get out the way. Get out the way!" Apparently this haircut bullshit is serious business.

I take him to his favorite restaurant -- Shakey's Pizza -- or as I call it, the most vile eating establishment in L.A. It's even grosser than the Erewhon supermarket. The smell of things frying makes me dizzy, but it calms Hector down a little. He even manages to muster up a few words in between bites of greasy, gnarly pizza. They have some games in the back room -- again with the stupid games -- and I give Hector some money to play with. After forty-five minutes, he wins 11,000 prize tickets -- or enough to trade in for three army men and a blow pop. Not bad for 12 bucks worth of quarters.

I ask if he wants some ice cream, and for the first time all day, he forgets about his haircut and gets excited. I take him to Cold Stone Creamery. He gets a sundae with Gummi Bears mixed in. I get nothing on account of Cold Stone ice cream gives me problems in the ass.

We do a little bit where he pretends to bite the balls off of his Gummi Bears and I do the voice of the Gummi Bear; "No! Please don't bite my balls off. I really need my Gummi Bear Balls." Hector cracks up -- kids like when you say "balls" -- and we play this game until his bowl is Gummi-testicle free.

On the ride home, Hector cranks up the Power 106, and raps along loudly as DMX sings about getting a blowjob. When I pull up to his house, I get out of the car to say goodbye. Hector starts to run off, but then he stops, turns back to me and says, "Bye Eric. Thanks for cheering me up today." And then he gives me a hug and sprints towards his house.

And I stand there for a minute, watching him go, and I smile. I guess even good kids need heroes.

But damn that is one stupid haircut!


PAGE 1 2

-friendly version for easy reading
©All material is copyrighted and cannot be reproduced without permission

home///current essays///contributors///about fresh yarn///archives///
submit///links///email list///site map///contact
© 2004-2005